A few years ago when employees became dissatisfied with their organization they would quit and get another job. Today, with placement opportunities very low and unemployment extremely high, very few people opt to quit and leave. As a result something much worse is happening within organizations. Employees “quit,” but they stay. In the last year, overall job satisfaction in the U.S. has declined significantly. Employees feel stuck in their current jobs and their dissatisfaction with the organizations they work for increases.
However, not all organizations are experiencing these dismal results. A recent assessment of employee satisfaction by one of our clients showed a significant improvement over past years, though this company was not immune to the effects of the recession. Examination of the data showed 7 factors that created this positive increase in their satisfaction, even during the economy’s poorest times.
1. Consistent Values. In some organizations, employees observe that core values appear to be abandoned when the economy is poor. Leadership values seemed to apply in good times, but to dwindle or even disappear during stress. This organization, however, held tightly to its core values as the economy turned. Employees began to more fully appreciate those values as well when they saw what was happening in other companies during difficult times.
2. Long Term Focus. This company clearly saw the recession as a temporary problem, and maintained its focus on the longterm objectives. The recession had a significant impact on the longterm objectives, but it created new opportunities as well. Employees don’t mind going through difficult times when they believe there is a brighter future ahead.
3. Local Leadership. company recognized that the major source of satisfaction or dissatisfaction came from what happen in each work group. Every manager and supervisor received a clear assessment of the satisfaction of their employees and was challenged to find opportunities to improve.
4. Continuous Communication. People tend to communicate less during bad times, when in actuality, they need to communicate even more. This company increased its efforts to communicate and share important information. If there was no good news to share, they would share the reality of their current situation.
5. Collaboration. Groups made significant improvements in their ability to share resources and work together. This reduced costs and increased efficiency.
6. Opportunities for Development. Because the pace of work was slower, people had the opportunity to learn new skills and develop new capabilities. This organization took advantage of the slower time by challenging employees with “stretch” job assignments. They also increased formal training.
7. Speed and Agility. With less budget, everyone saw the need to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. Speed of decision was emphasized.
Clearly, it is a fallacy to assume that bad times equate to lower job satisfaction. As our research illustrates, it is simply not true. The organization we described made significant gains in satisfaction and commitment during one of the worst financial times in history by doing the right things, and doing them well. These improvements helped the company create substantial financial momentum during the challenging economy as well.
The moral of the story is this: Many organizations wait for an economic and business turnaround to measure the satisfaction of their employees, but they are missing a great opportunity. By assessing now, they can build on the current opinions in any economy and can make the changes that will help them capitalize on better financial times. The activity also instills greater trust: By asking for opinions now, you are showing your employees that you’re not just asking for what you want to hear, but rather asking for what you need to be hearing as well. So what are you waiting for? If you value your employees’ satisfaction, the time to be asking for their feedback is now.